Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pod people

Over at Crooked Timber, Maria rants about her recently deceased iPod. In the post and in comments, there has been a debate about whether iTunes is overly proprietary. Maria, Cory Doctorow, and a few of Maria's commenters believe that i) the DRM protection on music purchased through the iTunes Music Store prevents copying legally-purchased music, or ii) iPods can only play music purchased through the iTunes Music Store. Cory admits in his article that it is easy to get around the copy restrictions of iTunes-purchased music. Simply burn a CD, and re-rip mp3s from the new CD. The new mp3s have no copy protection on them, though they also miss all of the metadata on title, artist, etc. So point one is rather moot. Cory plays a shell game with point two, with this sentence: "That obvious restriction: No one but Apple is allowed to make players for iTunes Music Store songs, and no one but Apple can sell you proprietary file-format music that will play on the iPod." Cory is absolutely correct, but who cares? I can't buy proprietary file-format music, but I can buy any mp3s, wavs, aiffs, or (gasp) CDs of music that will play just fine on my iPod. I have actually only purchased two songs from iTunes that I apparently cannot copy easily. I hadn't even noticed, as I only play them on my computer or my iPod. I suppose sending copies to my wife's computer and iPod would be slightly time-consuming, though I could get around that by registering her computer on my iTunes account. Heck, I could have a work computer, my wife's computer, a home computer, and two computers for my kids all registered on one account, and therefore copy the iTunes stuff between all of those computers. Or, for the whole two songs I've purchased from iTunes, I could shell out another $1.98 for her own personal copies. As it is, almost all of the music on my computer and my wife's computer (and our respective iPods) is ripped from our CDs. There are also podcasts and mp3s garnered from various internet sources. I don't know if the podcasts are proprietary, I think they are just mp3s.

I'm a little touchy about Maria's rant, as I've been without my own iPod for almost a month. My nano burned up, complete with scorch marks and a crack on the inside of the screen. So, I sent it back to Apple for a replacement. The replacement has been lost by DHL, so another replacement has to be sent now. I'm listening to music on my computer, but it just isn't the same.


steven poole said...

Good points, but if you burn a CD of iTMS music, and then re-rip it to mp3, hasn't the music gone through lossy compression twice? It's gonna sound horrible, though I guess some/many people won't notice.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

That is a good point. I've never tried it myself. Theoretically the wavelet transforms used in mp3 compression are lossless, merely removing redundancies. In practice there is loss, though not as much as in some other compression techniques.

steven poole said...

The alleged psychoacoustic "redundancies" are not at all redundant at the average bitrates people use. 128kbps mp3 as used by iTMS is very lossy. Personally I can clearly hear the difference between 256kbps mp3 and 1411kbps aiff. But then it depends on what you're playing it through and what you're listening for etc.